Knowledge Base

How to Pick a Padlock with Bobby Pins

Find yourself locked out without a key or combination? Don’t worry – with some simple bobby pins you likely already have at home, you can pick the padlock open in just a few easy steps. When executed carefully, this non-destructive padlock picking technique can crack open a wide range of inexpensive locks relying simply on strategically lifting the internal pins within the mechanism.

Our visual step-by-step guide details precisely how to pick a padlock with bobby pins in under a minute. Let’s dig in!

Gather Your Padlock Picking Tools

To start picking, you’ll need just three items:

  • Bobby pins (at least 2) – Standard metal pins with elastic ridges work best. More rigid, heavy-duty pins can also work.
  • A tension wrench – Paper clips, tweezers, or thin pliers will suffice when carefully applied.
  • Well-lit workstation – Ample overhead lighting ensures you can see the lock’s inner elements.

While professional lock picking kits exist, household bobby pins get the job done without any specialty gear in most residential grade padlocks.

Examine the Padlock’s Structure

Before inserting your pick tools, take a close overall look at the target padlock:

  • Locate the keyhole where you’ll be maneuvering your pick pins. Keyways face outwards.
  • Identify each individual pin within the cylinder by peering down via the keyhole. Look closest at the first 1 or 2.
  • Check that the lock turns freely in the locked position as tension will subsequently be applied.

Understanding your padlock’s unique structure ahead of time ensures an efficient pick job. Now let’s go to work!

Insert Your Pick Tools

With bobby pins in hand, this is how you’ll insert them into the padlock’s keyhole to begin picking each pin stack one-by-one:

  1. Take your tension wrench and place it up into the bottom of the lock keyway first, applying very light clockwise force to create friction. Simply wiggle or rock the tension tool if unable to slide it smoothly up into position around the cylinder.
  2. Next, gently slide your bobby pin up directly above the tension wrench centered in the lock keyway. The pin pickup will be on top with the wavy friction bump facing skyward. Ensure it moves up freely.
  3. Focus closest attention on the first 1 or 2 key pins near the front by sliding your pick slightly forward then “raking” by quickly scrubbing back. Listen and feel for pins catching by getting briefly stuck then dropping.

Proper insertion positioning is vital for a fast, harmless pick job. Take it slow.

Lift and Align the Pin Stacks

Here is the meticulous process to “set” each key pin within the cylinder to ultimately release the padlock:

  1. Apply very light rotational tension to the plug with your wrench/plier while centered in the keyway. Even a little twist can sometimes set pins. Ease back if sticking begins.
  2. Feel for subtle click vibrations against the bobby pick indicating cylinders falling into alignment as you carefully lift and scrub across their extremities along the shear line with your pick tip.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 cautiously while making micro-adjustments and tension changes to hoist each pin stack progressively using the arm’s rigid friction bumps and pin lift. Slight pick/wrench angle changes also help search across the rotational shear line plane.
  4. Feel/listen for the slight rotation once the final driver pin gets set. That likely signals full disengagement.

Light, steady pin raking pressure is vital here – let gravity gently drop aligned pins. Forced overlifting risks permanent lock damage!

Attempt to Unlock

Once significant give gets detected through rotation tension upon sets, it’s unlock time!

  • Remove your pick tool first, then tension wrench delicately second once all key pins seem vertically raised.
  • Attempt to turn and unlock the padlock core manually with applied torque either direction using your tension wrench until the shackle pops up freely.

Halt all efforts if no rotational give felt halfway through your raking steps and start over to avoid harming the mechanism. Let’s move onto helpful next steps for tricky jobs.

Supplemental Tricks for Tougher Padlocks

Difficulty getting a padlock open? Try these advanced tricks:

  • Spray penetrating fluid like WD-40 into the keyway. Wait 2 minutes for it to seep behind pins to assist turning.
  • Adjust your pick’s angle, position, and raking method. Approach pins differently. Vary tension direction and levels.
  • Use two pick tools simultaneously to apply lifting force from various angles. Or twist/wiggle each during attacks.

With multiple careful picking attempts, even stubborn padlocks will surrender!

Conclusion – How to Pick a Padlock with Bobby Pins

In summary, with some simple bobby pins and light rotational tension, you can pick open a wide range of standard padlocks in just minutes once you understand the internal pin structure. Carefully raking and setting those stacked pin cylinders into perfect vertical alignment inside the lock plug clears the shear line so the core turns freely and the shackle detaches. Have patience and take precautions not to overlift components which risks permanent damage. Consider supplemental tricks too for more stubborn padlocks by tapping pins from various angles.

When executed carefully, household bobby pins can pick open a multitude of padlock types thanks to their rigid friction ridges and slight thickness. Practice makes perfect for this accessible, zero-cost lock picking hobby using basic techniques.


Q: What are some other household items that can pick locks besides bobby pins?

A: Paper clips, hair pins, safety pins, dental picks, and even sturdy tweezers can substitute as decent lock pick tools in a pinch.

Q: Which lock brands or models are the easiest options for beginner padlock picking?

A: Inexpensive combination padlocks made by Master Lock, Hampton, Dudley and other generic retailers prove reliably easy first targets.

Q: Is all padlock picking with bobby pins legal to do?

A: Laws vary regionally. But you generally need explicit owner permission before attempting to pick any padlock not personally owned.

Q: Can watching online lock picking videos teach all the required skills with practice locks?

A: Yes, viewing visual demonstrations complements getting hands-on experience with clear practice locks tremendously for advancing techniques safely.

Q: About how many pins must be properly aligned with tension before a padlock unlocks?

A: Usually 4-5 of the key pins (half the total) must be precisely set for the core plug to fully rotate and release the shackle on most standard padlocks.


Combining his passion for security and technology, Joseph is dedicated to providing reliable and affordable combination padlocks to help protect your valuables. With years of experience in the industry, Joseph brings his expertise to to ensure your peace of mind.

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